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Consulting case study: the one thing every consulting case study must produce

Consulting Case Study: The One Thing Every Consulting Case Study Must Produce

A case study is one of the most common tools used anywhere a major decision has to be made, whether it’s within a large company, or it’s for a consulting firm advising a company. This common tool is so often used but people don’t really think about what a case study should deliver. So today I want to talk about logical case studies and really focus you on the one thing that a consulting case study should deliver. If you can deliver this one thing, it doesn’t matter whether the rest of the case study is missing components or it’s not very clear.

Now let’s show you a slide that we put together in the corporate strategy and transformation program where we’re helping Empire International, a very large energy utility, restructure themselves.

consulting case study

If you want to see the whole live study with all of the details so far, you can go to the StrategyTraining.com website to view Corporate Strategy and Transformation Study, and we’re still adding more components to it. If you are not a member, you can still get samples of some of our content by going to Firmsconsulting.com/promo and we’ll send you some sample content.

Extract the key insight from the consulting case study into one slide

Back to our slide, it’s a very straightforward and insightful slide. I’m not going to talk you through the slide because you can read it for yourself. What I want to talk you through today is why we presented this slide versus a 20-slide deck on the case study.

Think about this, right! When a firm or a consultant does a case study, the perception is that the consulting case study should be about 5 to 20 slides. There should be a cover page, a summary page, an executive summary page, the details and lessons learned. That is what other people do.

What I had always done when I was an associate, or when I became an engagement manager, what I had always instructed the teams to do even when I led teams directly as a partner, is that I asked them to focus less on the fluff, and if they can extract the key insight from the consulting case study into one slide, that is far more valuable to me.

Can you imagine I’m presenting to an executive and I’ve got to present this 20-slide deck for each of four case studies? That’s 80 slides, in which a lot of pages are just redundant and nonsense whereby there are the cover page, summary page, index page, and so on, which are unnecessary. The client does not need to know all of the background. The client does not need to know all of the things you analyze, either. They want to know the deepest insight that is relevant to them, which can be depicted on just one slide in any case study you do.

And you have to be careful, creative, and take some time to figure out how to create that one slide designed in such a way that you can show the insight versus using just any standard templates the firm has, which is one of the dangers you have. Firms have these template guides. You pick a template to use and populate it with data even when the template does not allow you to convey the key message you want in just one slide.

So if you are doing a consulting case study ask yourself this, “What is the one most important thing you want the client to know from this case study?” It’s possible that you want the client to know three important things. That’s fine, then you can have three slides, or you can have two important things in one slide and the third thing on the second slide, giving you a total two slides.

The habit of showing clients a lot of slides

You want to break away from the habit of showing the client you did work by presenting to them many slides. Initially, you may impress the client with the amount of work you’re doing, but at the end of the study when the senior members of the client team are talking about the insights and value, it would be apparent that you haven’t actually shown them anything important or that you haven’t actually extracted some piece of information that is useful.

They’re never going to say, “Well, you know, this consulting firm gave us a three hundred slide deck; therefore, they brought a lot of value even though we can’t really understand the insights.

I remember once working with a very large firm. This is after I left and I was considering joining them, and they let me talk to some of their consulting teams. The team I was talking with was from New York and they were doing this really in-depth set of analyses. I mean extremely detailed mapping of the sector and so on. I remember talking to them and saying, “What is your hypothesis? Why you are doing this?” And I remember the engagement manager, who I think was a senior manager, telling me that, “Well, we’re doing all this analysis, and hypotheses will come later.” That to me is a problem.

They’re doing a lot of analyses because they want to show that they’re busy, and they’re producing a lot of slides. It looks like an equity report from an equity analyst but there’s no insight and it’s going to take me forever to go through it. I remember looking at the slide deck and it was incredibly detailed 70 slides on the sector. They went out, analyzed everything, and summarized everything but I couldn’t know what they were telling me because even they didn’t know what they were telling me.

They were opting for an enormous amount of slides without giving me that one insight that I needed to know. In fact, they were coping out and making me do the work. They were making me read all of this and it’s dense with tiny writing. Some of the font was size five on a PowerPoint which is really small and is ageism as well because it doesn’t let old people to read it, which is another problem you have to deal with.

If you’re doing a consulting case study, figure out the most important thing you want to say and say it on one slide

If you’re doing a consulting case study. In fact, if you’re doing anything, figure out the most important thing you want to say and say it on one slide. If there’s nothing else more important you want to say, no one is going to punish you for that and say, “Well, you have been doing the case study on the entire company for three weeks.” That’s fine because if you come up with one very important insight, that’s okay. And remember sometimes you can do a case and there’s nothing really useful there.

One insight, one slide to get your message across. You will become a better consultant if you do that. Of course the flip side is don’t just produce one slide because you are lazy. You must have some deep message and deep sight in that one slide for your consutling case study.

Articles you may find helpful:

Business Case Study Research: The Pernicious Mistake Made

Business Case Example: The 10 Best Free Examples in 2020 (McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte etc.)

Business Acumen – Step-by-Step Guide to Improve It

If you want to see samples of our advanced training materials go to FIRMSconsulting.com/promo and sign up for free to receive sample materials.

Recommended books:

strategy consulting firm succeeding as a management consultantSucceeding as a Management Consultant

When people think about the business strategy we often think about the field of strategy consulting/management consulting and firms like McKinsey, BCG, et al. If you are interested in learning how to conduct a management consulting engagement, you will likely enjoy this book. Succeeding as a Management Consultant is a book set in the Brazilian interior. This book follows an engagement team as they assist Goldy, a large Brazilian gold miner, in diagnosing and fixing deep and persistent organizational issues. This book follows an engagement team over an 8-week assignment and explains how they successfully navigate a challenging client environment, develop hypotheses, build the analyses, and provide the final recommendations. It is written so the reader may understand, follow, and replicate the process. It is the only book laying out a consulting assignment step-by-step. A great book if you want to learn consulting skills, including how to put together an effective consulting case study.

strategy consulting firm Marketing saves the worldMarketing Saves the World, Bill Matassoni’s Memoir 

Bill Matassoni’s (Ex-McKinsey and Ex-BCG Senior Partner) Marketing Saves The World is a truly unique book. Never before has a McKinsey partner published his memoir publicly. This book is a rare opportunity – a true exclusive – to see what shapes the thought process of a partner and learn about marketing and strategy. The memoir essentially lays out McKinsey’s competitive advantage and explains how it can be neutralized. A great book if you want to enhance your presentation skills and communication skills. If you are interested in learning how to put together an effective consulting case study and in general if you are interested in management consulting you will enjoy this book. 

strategy consulting firm Turquoise eyesTurquoise Eyes: A Novel about Problem Solving & Critical Thinking

Turquoise Eyes started off the groundbreaking new genre developed by FIRMSconsulting that combines compelling narrative while teaching problem solving and critical thinking skills. Set after a bank begins implementing a new retail banking strategy, we follow Teresa García Ramírez de Arroyo, a director-general in the Mexican government, who has received some disturbing news. A whistleblower has emailed Teresa with troubling news about a mistake in the loan default calculations and reserve ratios. The numbers do not add up. The book loosely uses the logic and financial analyses in A Typical McKinsey Engagement, >270 videos.

WHAT IS NEXT? We hope you enjoyed the above article Consulting case study: the one thing every consulting case study must produce. If you would like to get more training resources sign up for our email updates on FIRMSconsulting.com/promo. This way you will not miss exclusive free training episodes and updates which we only share with the Firmsconsulting community. And if you have any questions about our membership training programs (StrategyTV.com/Apps & StrategyTraining.com/Apps) do not hesitate to reach out to us at support @ firmsconsulting.com. You can also get access to selected episodes when you sign-up for our newsletter above. Continue developing your strategy skills.

Cheers, Kris

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